As I walked to my car feeling despondent, having just got off the phone with my assigned Posse Trainer who notified me that one of my scholars had abruptly left the school and was leaving for home as soon as possible, I kept thinking to myself, “What did I do wrong? As a mentor, wasn’t I supposed to be the frontline, the authority figure scholars would go to for advice, support, and mentorship? In this case, with this student, I started my car with this aching feeling of self-defeat, especially because this scholar never contacted me about anything, rarely coming to our 1 on 1 meetings.
Then, as I was exiting the parking lot, I saw one of my colleagues who had been a Posse mentor. I hit the brakes, rolled down my window, said hello and asked, “How many of your Posse scholars ended up graduating?” I could tell she could see the sadness and frustration etched all over my face. “Seth, I lost so many students. Many didn’t make it.”. Didn’t Make It. This program is about making it. It’s about making it through four years of college, navigating through the struggles of being a POC attending an elitist TWI in the northeast.
Looking back on my first semester as a Posse mentor, this memory – a memory of failure in my mind – sticks out the most. It’s not how I built great rapport and trust with 9 of 10 the scholars. It’s not about their collective GPA of 3.3 – a huge success. Instead, I’ve been harping on the one that got away, the one I didn’t reach, the one that I didn’t establish trust with. That student is set to return this semester and I am excited and concerned. Will the student be welcomed back by the scholars? Is there such a thing as a reset button? Will the scholars ride the wave of momentum brought on by a successful first semester?
Being a Posse mentor is a profound responsibility. What I liked the most was the ability to explore creative ways to mentor. It has allowed me to experiment with approaches to reaching and connecting with undergraduate students. I only hope that the progress made in building unique in relationships with each scholar continues; that the students continue to “trust the process” and develop as students, as leaders, as global citizens.